Despite being reduced to 14 men eight minutes before half-time, Portlaoise secured their place in the U-21A Football Final with a dogged win over St Joseph’s/Barrowhouse on Saturday.
A strong wind gusted diagonally down the pitch in Park/Ratheniska throughout the game making conditions difficult for both sets of players.
Portlaoise had the advantage of the wind in the first-half and they built a 1-4 to 0-1 lead by the break. They almost made the perfect start when Dean Cullen bore down on goal but his shot hit the crossbar.
Liam McGovern opened the scoring after four minutes but his opposite number Michael Keogh levelled matter soon after. That would prove to be St Joseph’s/Barrowhouse’s only score of the half as they struggled to get out of their own half into the diagonal wind.
Points from Dean Cullen and Kieran McEvoy edged Portlaoise ahead before Liam McGovern dispatched a penalty to the back of the net after Aidan Brennan had handled the ball on the ground on his own goal-line in a last ditch attempt to keep out an effort from McGovern.
Portlaoise almost hit a second goal soon after but Kieran McEvoy was denied by a fine save from Aaron Cooney. Goalkeeper Graham Brody pointed the resulting ‘45 for Portlaoise to put them six ahead after 17 minutes but soon after they were reduced to 14 men when Daragh Duggan was red carded when he raised his hands to Aidan Brennan.
There was no further scoring before the break but after half-time St Joseph’s/Barrowhouse set about reducing the deficit scoring three of the first four points of the half with Danny Hickey, Mattie Campion and Jason Campion finding the target.
It looked as if they were set to take control of the game however they struggled to take full advantage of their extra man. They left just two players in the full-forward line which made the job of the Portlaoise defence considerably easier with Eoin Feane doing an excellent sweeping job .
Portlaoise built their attacks from the back and scores from Dean Cullen (2) and Donnacha O’Reilly left them six ahaead midway through the second-half.
St Joseph’s/Barrowhouse continued to battle and points from Mattie Campion (2) and an excellent left-footed effort from Michael Keogh got them back within three entering the last ten minutes.
Unfortunately for them, they never got a clean sight of Graham Brody’s goal as the Portlaoise defence continued to win their individual battles despite a number of positional switches from St Josephs/Barrowhouse and a late insurance point from James Nerney sealed the win for Portlaoise.
Scorers: Portlaoise: Liam McGovern 1-1 (1-0 pen); Dean Cullen 0-3 (0-2f); Kieran McEvoy 0-1; Graham Brody 0-1 ‘45; Donnacha O’Reilly 0-1; James Nerney 0-1. St Joseph’s/Barrowhouse: Mattie Campion 0-3 (0-1f); Michael Keogh 0-2; Danny Hickey 0-1; Jason Campion 0-1
Portlaoise: Graham Brody; Daragh McAuley, Philip O’Connell, Ian Lynch; David Seale, Eoin Keane, Donal Fitzgibbon; James Nerney, Daragh Duggan; Donnacha O’Reilly, Dean Cullen, Kieran McEvoy; Martin Staunton, Liam McGovern, Conor Dunphy. Subs: Mark Dalton for James Grennan (15mins); James Grennan for Denis Brophy (HT); Thomas Kirwin for Luke Malone (52mins)
St Joseph’s/Barrowhouse: Aaron Cooney; Aidan Brennan, Dan Dunne, Cian Maher; William McDonald, James Grennan, Gearoid Leacy; Jason Campion, Luke Malone; Denis Brophy, Donal Ramsbottom, Padraig Cashen; Mattie Campion, Michael Keogh, Danny Hickey. Subs: John Hearns for Conor Dunphy (47mins)